“Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to undo the transformation of jazz into a sophisticated art music. But there’s no sense in pretending that it didn’t happen, or that contemporary jazz is capable of appealing to the same kind of mass audience that thrilled to the big bands of the swing era. And it is precisely because jazz is now widely viewed as a high-culture art form that its makers must start to grapple with the same problems of presentation, marketing and audience development as do symphony orchestras, drama companies and art museums…”
Archives for August 9, 2009
Colorado Territory. In 1949 Raoul Walsh, one of the all-time great action directors, remade High Sierra, the 1941 proto-noir crime film that turned Humphrey Bogart into a star, retrofitting it as a western and replacing Bogart with Joel McCrea. Unlikely as it may sound, Walsh actually managed to improve on the original (which he also directed) the second time around. Like High Sierra, Colorado Territory is a laconic portrait of a lonely, aging gunman at the end of his tether, and the fact that McCrea, the quintessential white-hatted good guy, is playing against type adds to the film’s emotional complexity. This near-forgotten classic has just been released on DVD for the first time as part of the Warner Archive reissue series. It’s a must (TT).
James Gould Cozzens, Guard of Honor. This 1948 novel about life on a Florida air base nine months before D-Day won the Pulitzer Prize, then slipped through the cracks and has yet to resurface–yet it’s by far the best American novel written by a World War II veteran, the only one that can stand up to direct comparison with Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy. Tough-minded and stoic, richly detailed yet tautly controlled, Cozzens’ portrait of men and women preparing for war is an unrecognized classic of twentieth-century fiction. Still in print, amazingly enough (TT).
Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 1 (Warner Home Video, five discs). Having just written the libretto for an opera noir, I’m struck by how many of the people I met along the way knew little or nothing of the Hollywood film genre on which The Letter was based. If you’re one of them, the best way to get up to speed is to acquire this immaculately chosen box set, which contains five classics of film noir, John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle, Joseph H. Lewis’ Gun Crazy, Edward Dymytryk’s Murder, My Sweet (a film version of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely), Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past, and Robert Wise’s The Set-Up. It’s all here: the chumps, the dames, the hard-edged backchat, the shadow-stained cinematography, the fear and hopelessness, enacted by the likes of Jane Greer, Sterling Hayden, Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe, Dick Powell, Robert Ryan, and Audrey Totter. Treat yourself to a long weekend of despair (TT).